Review: The Flash: ‘Plastique’

It’s still strange to me that there wasn’t an episode last week. It helps that the show’s still getting started, so gap doesn’t seem are apparent.

That said, Plastique continues last week’s trend of changing the formula of the show. Besides introducing a new potential antagonist – two, actually – this week takes on two things that had been bugging me since the earlier episodes. One will take more than a few episodes to fix, but the other- I’m happy with the progress made.

TheFlashTitleSo, this week does return to the ‘metahuman of the week’ style of story after last week provided an interesting threat from a normal career criminal. As much as I’ve been enjoying this show, prior to this its weekly antagonists have always felt like an afterthought – largely lacking in much of a personality or backstory and always jumping to revenge mode as soon as they get their powers. This week makes a nice break from formula, and one I hope won’t just be an exception.

Veteran Bette Sans Souci (Kelly Frye, nicknamed Plastique by Cisco) could be argued to have drawn the shortest straw of metahuman powers on the show so far – everything she touches turns into a bomb. I want to clarify that so we’re clear – EVERYTHING. This isn’t like Gambit where he can control it, she just touches something, and, whether she means it or not, it’s a weapon. Rather than use that power for revenge, she’s taking an entirely different tact: disappear and cover all of her tracks.

Though said power DOES net her fifteen minutes of YouTube fame with the short-lived 'Will It Explode?' series.

Though said power DOES net her fifteen minutes of YouTube fame with the short-lived ‘Will It Explode?’ series.

At the moment, I’m not going to deny that there is the hopefully unintentional implication that the main reason this metahuman is an exception is because- rather than the prior criminals and wronged scientists- it’s an attractive woman. Though, to their credit, the show does at least lampshade this implication in Cisco’s response (he’s ready to kill her when he finds out she accidentally destroyed Barry’s suit until he actually sees her) but the fact is, it’s still there.

Again, I hope this isn’t just a one-time occurrence and we can expect other sympathetic metahumans in the future to rule this out, but in the meantime, I at least give the writers some slack here for the fact they acknowledge and rib said implication.

Iimplications aside, t’s actually nice to see the show exploring this angle to metahuman powers. The idea that people wouldn’t want to use their abilities for harm and that someone would just want to be left alone are explored, as is the idea that a metahuman could be exploited by other people. This point comes in the welcome presence of veteran character actor and DCAU alumni Clancy Brown as military general Wade Eiling.

Besides adding a potential new future plot to the series with regards to the idea that another faction could have an interest in metahumans, I have to say I like the compare and contrast the show presents between Eiling and Wells. This episode certainly outlines the differences between them, but from what we see of Wells in this and other episodes – such as here when he goads Bette into seeking vengeance against Eiling – maybe they’re really not as different as he’d like to think they are.

"I just received word that a DC comics superhero is working to make things better for people, and it's my job to put a stop to that!"

“I just received word that a DC comics superhero is working to make things better for people, and it’s my job to put a stop to that!”

The other front where the show is improving is regarding Iris’s storyline. Honestly, while there’s still a few well worn elements in play, it’s doing a better job at handling them in a way that shows Iris’s intelligence. We find out why she’s developed such an interest in ‘The Streak’, and it’s actually a welcome change from the usual reasons a female lead takes an interest in a masked hero. Plus, the show is actually presenting a good means for Barry to interact with Iris as The Flash and not fall prey to the ‘Clark Kent effect’ (to that end, points to the effects team for this – the whole episode looks good, but the effect on Barry vibrating in place to look and sound blurry turned out well).

That Barry’s out of costume attempts to get her to walk away from the story leave them in a conflicted place is a bit predictable, but the show is at least getting better with the execution, so I won’t ride this one too hard for now. Especially since Gustin and Patton are making a lot of old hat work well together.

Also, this storyline further proves why Joe is the best character on the show – as an encore from his having already known his daughter was dating his partner weeks ago, he outright tells Barry he’s known about his feelings for his daughter for years – and really was just waiting for him to say something. The timing makes it a bit of an unintended ‘kick him when he’s down’ for Barry, admittedly, but still, points to Joe for being the one regular to get it out into the open.

I’m okay with this storyline so far, given we’re still in origin story mode. However, I really hope they don’t try to play this out too long. You’ve proven yourselves good writers for the material so far, guys. I’m sure you can find a good way to use Iris after she finds out Barry’s secret.

In the meantime, keep up the rest of the good work. Besides the interesting changes to formula, this week continued playing to the show’s strengths otherwise – and for one of their more (relatively) serious stories, actually managed to find a number of good moments for humor along the way. While she hasn’t gotten many chances to show it, Danielle Panabaker’s finally hitting a nice comedic rhythm with Carlos Valdes, somewhere between a straight man (well, woman) and a sarcastic foil to his enthusiasm – probably best shown during a test of Bette’s powers when she makes note of Cisco’s decision to include a boomerang among the ‘charge and throw’ objects. It’s a minor part in this episode, but it’s one of those little things that really helps the show.

"Whoa, whoa...I just got started. I am WAY too early in my career for a sales-grabbing suit recolor!"

“Whoa, whoa…I just got started. I am WAY too early in my career for a sales-grabbing suit recolor!”

I said it before, I’ll say it again – this is fast becoming the winner of DC’s three new shows this season. Even with the learning curve most shows have to get over in their first season, it’s making good time in working out and overcoming its weaker elements. This week in particular, especially after last time, has done a great job of breaking the show out of a rut and helping set up a bigger world and story on top of everything. That it all ends with this week’s Wells epilogue confirming that, yes, Gorilla Grodd WILL be coming at some point in the future, is just the icing on this cake. More so than before, this week has actually got me looking forward to next time.

To that end, it’s safe to say we can expect more plot progression next week with The Flash is Born. I know I’m on board for it, hopefully I’ll see some of you guys there as well.

Till then.

Pros:

-Good break from formula for metahuman antagonists with some interesting implications for the future

-Whatever the effects team is being paid on this show, they are getting every penny’s worth and then some

Cons:

-The show’s making some progress, but it’s hard to really sweat the Barry-Iris storyline when its conclusion feels almost inevitable

-While the Grodd reveal is a nice hook, the prior Eiling-Wells confrontation is somewhat anticlimactic

Rating: 4/5

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This is what happens when a man takes a degree in English and the excessive analytic skills therein and chooses to use them for... ...is this evil? I'm not sure. But there are monsters and potentially robots, so there's potential for evil. ...we'll get back to you on that.

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